How to Use a Bullet Journal for Your Homeschool

I have not been shy about the fact that the Bullet Journal system has saved my sanity.  I’m not a naturally organized person.  I hate wasted pages that I don’t use.  I have a weird life with my husband’s schedule changing from week to week, homeschooling, writing, and managing food allergies in our home.  There’s a lot of things going on, and this system helps me feel like my balls aren’t being juggled in the air, but rather safely tucked in my bullet journal.

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Many homeschooling friends have asked me how I use it for homeschooling.  I will say that laws vary from state to state on what you need to record for homeschooling.  In my state, I am not required to count school days, or have a portfolio review.  I do not keep grades.  Either a child has mastered a subject, or she hasn’t.  If he or she hasn’t mastered it, we will stay on it until they do.  Are they engaged, and learning every day?  Is their curiosity peaked? Are they stuck in a rut and need to branch out?  Grades don’t tell me those things.  So my uses for the bullet journal are purely for my own needs, and are not legal documents.

One of my favorite things about the bullet journal is that it changes as you change.  As your kids grow and have different needs, your bullet journal just changes with them.  As my organizational needs has evolved, so has the bullet journal.

If you want to see the details on how to do a bullet journal, you can see the basics here.  The beauty of the system is you can use any plain notebook to make it work.  I have really liked using a Leuchtturm notebook with the dotted pages.  Basically, you make up a planner in a blank journal as you go.  There are 2 types of pages.  Calendar pages (6 month spread, monthly pages, weekly pages, daily pages…I don’t use a monthly pages.  I found out I never really used them.) You write to do lists and appointments on your daily list, and things that don’t get done get migrated to an appropriate day in the future, or crossed off altogether.

Every Saturday, I set up my bullet journal for the next week.  I pull items off of the Google calendar that both my husband and I contribute to as we make plans.  Then I migrate anything left undone from the last week onto some place in the new week, or if I’m sure it’s not going to get done for awhile, I’ll migrate it to my 6-month spread. (Like I said, I don’t seem to use or make the monthly spreads.  It’s redundant in my weird brain, and I love how you don’t have to put any pages in there that you realistically won’t use, and customize it to your own weird brain.)

This summer I finished up my 2nd bullet journal, and I started my 3rd.  As I reflected on more ways I would like to grow and prepare for the next season, I added some new things to my daily pages.  First, I added water-drinking tracking and vegetable eating tracking for ME  on my daily page.  Also, I added a weather forecast for my daily pages.  The reason I did this is that my husband will often just show up when we are in the middle of things because it’s raining and he has the rest of the day off.  Or maybe we got some good snow and he declares a PE day for our homeschool and takes the kids cross country skiing.  Such is life being married to a farmer whose work is almost always weather-dominated.  It happens with little warning.  It drives me crazy.  I figured if I have a vague idea of what the weather will be like on each day, I can better predict when my husband will be interrupting making memories with our children.

Here’s another example of a bullet journal evolving as you grow with it.

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This is a basic daily page from my 1st bullet journal.

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This is a basic daily page from my 2nd bullet journal.  I added a kid chore list, as each of my school-aged kids do a family chore after every meal.  I usually just look around and see what needs to be done, but I found it saves time to write something down when I see it or think of it, so when they ask me, I have a whole list to choose from when handing out jobs.

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This is a basic daily page from my current bullet journal.  I’ve added lines to be fancy, and because I’m getting a clearer vision for what I need to see every day.  It was getting so packed that it would be too confusing or cluttered without the lines.

The other type of pages are collection pages.  For my new bullet journal, I’m putting a band of washi tape on the edge of my pages that are collection pages so they are easier to flip to and find in the bulk of the calendar pages, as I don’t use the table of contents as often as I should.  Collection pages don’t all have to be in the same spot or in any order—which I LOVE.  I can just write them in when I think of one that I’ll use.  For instance, I have a menu plan collection page that I wrote about here.  This helps me simplify meal planning.  (In my newest bullet journal, I’ve added a freezer meal inventory page, and I’ve added lunches rotations as well as snack ideas to my meal schedule page.  I also have a page with a running list of blog post ideas.  You can do budget pages, or goal setting pages too.  You can make a page for any list you want to reference, like “Menu brainstorm for Easter Supper”)

Next, it would be helpful to share how our school days look.  We have been homeschooling 7 years, and are about to start our 8th.  I started out very structured, and realized that wasn’t us.  So we went from a strict schedule to a relaxed routine.  I would have the routine of when things happened posted in the kitchen.  We also learned that we need a family quiet time every afternoon.  It’s not just that the little ones need a nap, but the older ones need some quiet too, and I certainly need to just not talk to anyone for just an hour for the sake of my vocal cords and sanity.

So for the last few years, our school day has looked like this:

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This has worked well for the most part.  It got a little trickier once we added our 3rd student to school.  Last year we added our 4th, with a preschooler and infant in the mix too.  We also joined a homeschool community known as “Classical Conversations.” So we limped along with the old routine and the new needs, but as we are on break and I’ve had time to reflect, we are making yet another change to accommodate our growing needs.

We are going back to a stricter schedule, because students #3 and #4 are getting cut out of the school day when things go awry on a consistent basis.  And things do go awry.  There is no such thing as a perfect homeschool day.  Last year I really focused my attention on getting my student #2 with ADHD and dyslexia to be able to manage more of his work independently so I could work with the younger kids more.  Keeping him on task is a challenge, and he made huge strides in this area.

But student #3 and #4 need my attention even though they are not the squeakiest wheels on this bus.  So with the cheering on of the veteran homeschooling moms I’ve consulted, I’m moving back to a timed schedule, so that these students get better prioritized, and students #1 and #2 can visually see that my time is promised to other people and they will just have to wait until it’s their turn with me to tell me their random factoid they just read.

If you want to know what I do with child #5 and #6 who are too little to “do school” I have written about that here and here.

To do this, I have made a schedule for each of the school-aged children in my home, as well as one for me.  I took out my handy-dandy laminator, and these are now ready to be used on a daily basis with dry-erase markers to cross something off when it is done.

My homeschooling mentor-moms assure me that this type of schedule will work this time because I have grown into this level of organization, when I just wasn’t there before.  More importantly, I have the faces of my kids getting skipped at the front of my mind and I’m doing this for them.  My “why” is different this time.

Stay with me.  The bullet journal is coming back into the conversation soon.

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I previously posted about our Morning Hour.  I have adjusted this a bit to include our Classical Conversations memory work review.  I use a 3-ring binder mostly for holding papers for morning hour, but I work off of my bullet journal page to stay on task.  Basically, I cover many subjects in that hour, when it would be too tedious to itemize them on a schedule.

While it’s rare for me to put homeschooling items on my daily pages, I use collection pages to manage my homeschool, as well as habit trackers, to keep track of what each child is working through in each subject.  

For instance, here is our school bookshelf page (I’m still working on filling this up during the summer, so it will be ready to go this fall):

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Each child (and myself…modeling the whole lifelong learning thing) has books on their school shelf that I’m wanting them to read this year.  We also do a read-aloud during our morning snack or “tea-time” so I have a shelf for that, to remember which books I was hoping to read to the kids while their mouths are busy chewing their snack and drinking tea.  When a book is finished, I take a colored pencil and color it in, so that I know it’s finished.

IMG_6216It’s like a pretty-picture checklist.  I always try to put more books on here than we can read so that 1) we can have options to move on if a book is really not working with a child.  There are so many good books out there that I don’t like wasting time on ones that clearly aren’t working, and 2) I can’t predict how fast we will get through a book.  There are so many interruptions in life.  We just move forward each day with what is in our hands.  As long as we are reading everyday, I’m content.

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Another collection day is a yearly calendar so I can keep track of days that we work hard, and plan in vacations.  Like I said, our state does not require this, but I have learned that I need to plan in vacation for myself, and this calendar just helps me fight the guilt in taking days off, and see how much we are actually working.

I have a homeschooling to-do page, which is basically a teacher-prep page, of seminars I’d like to watch online for training, or posters I’d like to make, field trips I’d like to do, or organizational things I’d like to set up, or pages I need to copy.  I don’t have one for each week, just a running list that I’m constantly adding to and x-ing off.  If its something little or urgent, I put it on my daily page.

Then there is habit tracking pages.  This is what I have done for one child:

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I plan to extend the habit tracker by turning it across 2 pages, and putting one child on top of the other like in this pin.  (I have a whole Pinterest board where it’s fun to store ideas and learn how to make things pretty.)

You can even make up collection pages as needed, and they don’t have to be artistic or anything.  I have a page with just a list of words that one child consistently spells incorrectly in his daily narration.  It helps me brainstorm on working on those and seeing patterns.

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I also have a spread of everyone’s schedules so that I have a quick reference of what everyone should be doing if I’m not in the kitchen.

Finally, what did I do with my oldest Challenge A student last year (going into Challenge B this year!) for her full load of schoolwork?  How do I keep track of her work for high school transcripts, and prepare her to manage college syllabuses?  (Syllabi?) Well, in Classical Conversations, the Challenge years are all about transferring ownership of the school to the student.  She got her own bullet journal partway through the year, and she LOVES IT.  Sometime this next year, I’ll have her make a post on how she uses her own bullet journal for the Challenge program, and even moving into the summer months to keep track of all of the projects and events she wants to do during her time off.

On my side of keeping track of her things, I would schedule a weekly meeting with her on the weekly spread of my bullet journal, so make sure her week is set up properly in her own journal, and that she’s keeping on top of her workload, and discuss her tests and papers.  As she has her own weaknesses, she gets a habit tracker of things that I need to supervise, or verify to keep her accountable on a daily basis.

Comments

  1. Lisa says

    I love bullet journals…I can’t stop “journaling” in my bullet journal though, so I also use a calendar. It’s such a good dump space for all my brain comes up with! Also, wasn’t Hannah Coulter SOOOOO GOOOD!!! I just finished it too and I want to start it over right now!

  2. says

    Oh my gracious! You set up a habit tracker for each kid for the term! That is perfect for keeping track of work done, and if I work it right, I might only need one spread for each of our fifteen week terms. Thanks for the idea!

  3. Avery says

    This is my first exposure to a bullet journal, I am only into my 2nd year of homeschooling. This is very overwhelming and yet, I see how it could work once you get your feet wet. I will keep this post as a reference. If you have any baby step suggestions, please send my way.

  4. Joy says

    Loved reading this, i waited until this morning so i had some time to attend to it. How much time would you say you spend on it each Sat? It looks like the system might take a little time to write up when you start but then its pretty self maintaining with a little time each week? Do you write the collection pages and 6 month planner in one go and then the weekly pages as you go along?

    I dont homeschool but I’m studying myself and trying to organise family life and the kids school and my own studies and so i keep forgetting things (like planting out my seedlings!). I’ve got a new A4 diary for this academic year and was thinking of using it in this kind of way so your post is perfect timing!

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